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October is Horror Month. How do I know? Well, one way is that suddenly there are all these stores popping up in previously empty storefront spaces all over the city filled with insanely overpriced Halloween costumes, makeup and assorted decorative paraphernalia. My wife, daughters and I took a pleasant Saturday evening walk over to the seasonal costume shop in our neighborhood (in the mini-mall space where the Blockbuster used to be) to scope out ideas for my costume this year. Apparently the kids in the neighborhood can’t be subjected to a third straight year of me dressed as a mustard-smeared hot dog in a bun, or so say my own kids, so a suitable replacement has been deemed a requirement. I want to continue the food theme again, but I was dismayed to discover that it would cost me a hair over $50 to don close-to-pornographic costumes that would have me parading around after dark dressed as a banana or a taco. If I want to be a fried egg, it’ll cost me $75. There’s a ham sandwich outfit available for the relative bargain of $44.95, but if I want to be the Hamburger Helper oven mitt mascot the price again goes way up. I saw a hilarious-looking sumo wrestler costume, complete with fake musculature, which runs close to $80, but despite the undoubtedly high wow factor from unsuspecting trick-or-treaters when I come to the door, all I could think of when I was looking at the item was how ungodly hot it would be and how badly I’d want to take it off. (Much cooler and cheaper to just climb into a diaper and show off my natural sumo-osity, but I suspect the general populace might raise some well-founded objections to that idea.) I came into the shop specifically looking for a reasonably priced slice-of-mushroom-pizza costume, but the closest I could get was a pizza chef’s costume, complete with hat and giant pants that make me look even more rotund than I already am. Only $30, but it’s not quite what I’m after. I’ll hold out for the slice of pizza. Of course, I could always splurge on an adult-sized Chucky outfit (ax pictured not included), but Halloween is for enjoying, not for sending my youngest daughter straight to the nearest juvie mental ward. I love the level of concern displayed on the label of the child-sized Seed of Chucky costume and mask set: “WARNING: Parents Should Be Advised That Seed of Chucky is rated R.” As if any parent willing to lay down $75 for their 10-year-old to dress like Chucky the killer doll while soliciting candy from neighbors is going to give two shits about whether or not Seed of Chucky is appropriate for family viewing.
October round the blogosphere is a time to celebrate all degrees of viewing inappropriate for most families, unless yours includes Bill Moseley, Sid Haig and Sheri Moon Zombie, and here at SLIFR it will be no different. I plan to celebrate in my own modest way by revisiting some old favorites, checking over the horror-tinged film offerings in and around Los Angeles for the month, and by shining a light on some new stuff as well (to me and, in one glorious instance, to just about everyone). I’ll also be providing links to horror-related posts and other creative endeavors as frequently as possible, and I’m going to start right now by making sure you find your way to the annual opening of Greg Ferrara’s catacombs of terror. And for those of you who have a more literary bent when it comes to fright, Bill Ryan is back on the case with another massive month-long The Kind of Face You SLASH survey of horror fiction. Speaking of annual surveys, the seventh annual 31 Days of Horror roundup over at Not Coming to a Theater near You is a feature I always look forward to.
The Movie Morlocks blog is in full swing for Shocktober as well, with great features already posted on such worthy titles as The Nanny, The Brides of Dracula and Quatermass and the Pit (a.k.a. Five Million Years to Earth), all part of their ongoing series on Hammer Horror. Morlock Kimberly Lindbergs checks in on the Lovecraftian goings on in an old American International favorite of mine, The Crimson Cult. And Richard Harland Smith goes off the beaten Halloween path to recommend a low-budget shocker called The Woman Who Came Back, the very next selection from my Netflix queue. Speaking of Richard and the Morlocks, there’s also another session with The Horror Dads coming up in October. This time our panel of erudite father figures will be examining the gruesome Golding-esque horrors within a notorious Spanish thriller called Who Can Kill a Child?, a movie seemingly tailor-made for the concerns of our little parentally oriented gathering. Look for that discussion to pop in a couple of weeks.
Finally, attention must be paid to Bob Turnbull’s superb video essay Eternal Sunshine of the Horror—A Montage for October. Bob sets a brilliantly chosen series of clips to a hard-driving, haunted cut from the Scottish band Mogwai and perfectly evokes and stokes the spirit of the season. If you’re not in the mood for Halloween and a month of shock-tinged festivities before you see this piece, you will be afterward. What I like most about what Bob has done here is how he’s more often than not taken the road less traveled in terms of horror movie iconography, drinking deep from the wells of giallo and J-horror, to come up with images, graphic continuity and rhythms that make everything, even the most familiar titles, seem fresh, slightly unfamiliar, authentically creepy, all simply by being more selective, more intuitive, thinking about moments and images from even the most familiar titles than would lend themselves to the frisson of dread he so easily conjures and builds upon here. Jump right on over to Bob’s terrific blog Eternal Sunshine of the Logical Mind and experience the spirit of the season Turnbull style. Your nerves may not thank you, but that itch you’ve got for all things eerie most certainly will.
And last, but certainly not least (in my demented mind anyway), there’s a special event coming up here in Los Angeles that I am most proud to be a part of and to alert you to. Coming this October 20 and 21, Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule will join with the New Beverly Cinema to celebrate Halloween with a double feature for the ages, bringing old school fear and subversive social satire in the same auditorium where they will duke it out for what remains of your frazzled nerves.
Orphan (2009; Jaume Collett-Serra) was condemned by some reactionary reviewers as the sadistic equivalent of child abuse. (Thank you, Ann Hornaday.) But others recognized it as the continuation of a long line of stories about fearsome, murderous movie children, this one with its roots in a peculiar psycho-biological phenomenon that makes Isabelle Furhmann (as the titular orphaned Esther) the true and rightful heir to nasty little Patty McCormack's Rhoda Penmark. If Ms. McCormack was The Bad Seed, there is, as the movie progresses, increasingly little doubt that Esther is the worst.
Seed of Chucky (2004; Don Mancini), the fifth in the series of killer doll movies that began with 1988's Child's Play, fulfills the series pendulum swing from nuts-and-bolts horror to a more irreverent form of social satire, a gory comedy that takes aim at Hollywood and the kind of social problem dramas that have made the Lifetime Network a household name. Indeed, at heart Seed is nothing less than the movie Brian De Palma would have made from the scripted bastard child of Ordinary People, The Great Santini and Dressed to Kill. It's shocking, scary, funny and takes on dysfunctional family dynamics in ways that make you realize just how flexible the horror genre really is.
Both movies are far smarter and more original than their reputations would have you believe. Orphan was abandoned in a summer season full of movies made more attractive (i.e. more easily digestible) to its target demographic. Seed had the misfortune of opening against the first of the high-concept Saw movies six years ago. And both are ripe for reappraisal. You're invited to the New Beverly October 20 and 21 for the beginning of that reappraisal.
On October 20 Orphan will screen at 7:30 p.m. so that featured guest David Johnson, the film's screenwriter, can participate in a post-film Q&A moderated by Don Mancini. (Additional guests may be featured and will be announced at a later time, all schedules permitting.) Seed of Chucky will screen that night at 9:45 p.m.
The next night, October 21, Seed of Chucky will screen at 7:30 p.m., followed by a Q&A moderated by screenwriter Mike Werb (Face/Off, The Mask) which will feature writer-director Don Mancini, stars Jennifer Tilly and Brad Dourif, producers David Kirschner and Corey Sienega and master puppeteer and effects artist Tony Gardner, all schedules permitting. Orphan will screen that night at 9:45 p.m.
I am genuinely excited to be able to help bring this Halloween season program to you and hope you will mark your calendars and join us for what will surely be two nights to remember at the New Beverly Cinema. My thanks to Michael, Phil and everyone at the New Beverly for being so generous in making this happen, and to Don for being instrumental in not only making a terrific movie but in gathering all people together for both nights of discussions. This is a can’t-miss event, and I hope we’ll see you there. For more information, please visit the New Beverly Cinema home page, and stay tuned right here for more on the event as well as some fresh pieces on Orphan, Seed of Chucky, Terence Fisher's Curse of the Werewolf and Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, and one I'm really excited to write about, Joe Dante's new 3-D horror picture, The Hole.